As many of you know, we were at the beach last week. I’m going to try to get caught up posting pictures so expect two per day for the next week. We had a relatively easy drive down on Saturday, covering the 420 or so miles in a little over 7.5 hours. It was drizzling when we left home, then south of Richmond we had mostly sunny skies. We had rain going around Wilmington, NC and it was cloudy and threatening after that. The sunset was pretty amazing, with the color from the sky turning the ocean an amazing color.
Tagged With: North Carolina
Most kids love the beach. Of course, kids under a certain age are generally not really up on the joys of playing in the surf or digging in the sand. Kai is only seven months old and he isn’t really well versed in the joys of childhood yet. Or, perhaps I should say the joys of his childhood are, at this point, fairly simple. He went out onto the beach (okay, he was taken out onto the beach) this afternoon and was dressed for the sun. The goggles were a bit much and they came off fairly quickly but I think they suit him. He sat on the sand with his feet in a hole with a little water in it and wasn’t entirely displeased. He didn’t particularly like being splashed, although there was no real danger of him getting into any trouble. It won’t be long until he’s mobile and then the fun begins for his parents. “Wait, he was here a second ago, where did he go?”
When you plan your beach trip months in advance, you never know what sort of weather you’re going to get. Some years it’s very hot and muggy, others, relatively cool and pleasant. This year was a cool and pleasant year, a rare but welcome occurrence. I think it barely broke 85°F the whole week. This morning was the only day with a sunrise worth getting up for. The other days either had completely clear or (on Friday) an entirely overcast sky. Today’s sunrise made up for the other days’ lack, though. There were a lot of folks out on the beach at 6:30 watching it, looking for shells in the sand as the tide ebbed (high tide was about two hours previous to this picture).
Just an average day at the beach. As I mentioned in a previous post, the weather this week was quite mild. Yesterday it was actually cool enough that you wanted to stay mostly underwater when you were out. I like to float on my back when the water is calm, as it was all week, but when I did my toes got cold. Today was a bit warmer but still not hot. Today also brought a few larger swells in addition to the small waves that broke too far in for us to ride. So, today was the best wave-riding day of the week. This picture was taken just before 1:00 PM and it shows the beach at about its most crowded (well, at high tide it was more crowded because everyone had to move up, but about the same number of people). This picture was taken from about the same place as the sunrise picture from yesterday and looking in roughly the same direction.
The beach was mostly empty this morning. This picture was taken at about 9:00 AM when the beach is usually beginning to get fairly crowded but the drizzle this morning kept most people indoors. It cleared up quite a bit later on and more people were out but nothing like the last few days. It was also much more humid than its been, although it was still quite cool. It was our last full day at the beach and it was fairly restful without not a lot happening. We did manage to finish a pretty tricky puzzle before the end of the day and we were all pretty pleased with that. Three puzzles over the course of six days, one of which was finished in a single day. The house we were in didn’t really have a good table for puzzles other than the dining table, which was somewhat inconvenient. But we managed.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the family reunion we went to was on our way to a week at the beach. Work has been pretty crazy lately. On the one hand, I really need to be there to get some things done. On the other hand, I really needed this break and I’m looking forward to not really thinking about work all week. This is the view from the deck half way to the beach from the cottage where we’re staying. It’s an older house, smaller than most, but adequate to our needs. This picture was taken around high tide and it’s a rainy morning so not a lot of activity on the beach. As the tide went out and the sun started to shine, the beach filled with people (as you would expect).
We were preparing to go to the Whites’ house, just a little way down the beach, when the sun was setting. There were a couple guys working on the top of the water tower near where we were staying and as the clouds were moving past, there were occasional flashes of lightning and distant thunder. None of is was closer than three or four miles but if it were me up there it would have made me a bit nervous. Anyway, I took some pictures of the water tower with the sunset color in the clouds behind it. It was pretty impressive. Of course, if I had gotten a picture of lightning striking the tower it would have been both amazing and tragic. Fortunately for those guys, it didn’t happen.
We spent the better part of the day driving to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina today. We were delayed a little by a flat tire and the time it took to get that replaced but better to have it happen near home that when we were traveling 70 MPH on the highway. Traffic between the Occoquan River Bridge and Fredericksburg was as bad as ever. Actually, worse. Generally the GPS says “Fastest route despite delays” but today it not only told us to get off of 95 onto US 1, it twice took us off of Route 1 onto smaller streets. I’m not entirely sure that saved us any time and the delay added about two hours to the drive, but we did finally make it to the beach and were able to relax a bit. As you can see, we arrived to fine weather and a calm Atlantic Ocean.
Today was the first day this week I went out to take pictures of the sunrise. I thought about it two other days but didn’t go out. There are often nice sunrises here but I simply didn’t feel like it. Today I did and was rewarded with some nice pictures. When I first went out it was very blue. The clouds and the ocean were various shades ranging from pale to dark. Eventually, the sun actually rose and a fair amount of orange was added to the sky and the reflection of the sky in the water. This photo doesn’t really show much of the blue.
I’ve gone to the Green Swamp a few times during our weeks at the beach. Sometimes with a largish group and sometimes just a few others. I went by myself today and had a nice time. I planned not to go too far, with the primary goal of getting some pictures. I got some nice shots of Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) and sundews (Drosera sp.). It was fairly dry and many of the pitcher plants (the purple Sarracenia purpurea And the yellow Sarracenia flava) were a little the worse for that. Still, I got some pictures. I also got a good shot of a palamedes swallowtail (Papilio palamedes (. But this is my favorite photo from the trip, showing the long leaf pines (Pinus palustris).
As usual, we took a family photo at the beach on the last day when everyone was still there (George and Carmela left shortly after the photo was taken). Tsai-Hong and Cathy had gone for a walk and were a long time getting back, which created some tension. Of course they were understandably not anxious to sit for a picture the moment they got back. They had walked to the far end of the island and back, covering over eight miles. The weather cooperated, though, as the light overcast meant we didn’t have to squint into the sun or put our faces in shadow by facing away.
As our week at the beach came to an end, Brian from next door came over to let me know there was a nice sunset and that I should come out with my camera. There was this single cloud, far out to sea, lit by the setting sun, surrounded by the blue of the ocean, the sky, and the other clouds. I’m pretty happy with this picture as a relaxing reminder of a mostly relaxing week. Being with family for a week, it’s inevitable that there will be little things but for the most part, it was very nice and that’s how I’m going to remember it. The cottage we were in this year was good, in terms of layout, giving us the space we needed to spread out. Having the pool was a bonus and more enjoyable that I would have expected. It was shared with the three connected units, but that hardly mattered. One of those units was our cousins and it was nice being so close to them. If nothing else, it meant they could stick their head in our door and let us know about sunsets (and, as it turned out tomorrow morning, leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) hatching at the end of our path to the beach).
Cathy and I walked west on the beach this morning and I stopped to take a few pictures, including pictures of two different crabs. This one is an Atlantic ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata), which is generally nocturnal. They burrow down as much as four feet into the sand to stay out of the hot sun, but occasionally they come out and can be seen. The other crab we saw was some species of spider crab. I also got pictures of a jellyfish on the sand, a grackle with a piece of crab in it’s beak, and some brown pelicans flying overhead.
We walked on the beach at the east end of the island this morning. It was a clear day with very bright sun so I wore a hat and shirt and put sunscreen on exposed skin. We looked for shells but didn’t find many. Past years have been good for shell-hunting but there don’t seem to be as many this year. That means that the beach is almost pure sand, which in general isn’t a bad thing. But it’s one less thing for us to do. We saw a few sandpipers as we walked including this willet (Tringa semipalmata). They are very distinctive birds and quite common on the beaches of North Carolina.
A few of us went to the Green Swamp this morning. As usual, the humidity was a bit oppressive but it was actually cooler than it’s been most years and it wasn’t until we were nearly back to the car that I was starting to feel particularly uncomfortable. The trail goes through long-leaf pine savanna for the most part, but areas of that are separated by pocosins (evergreen shrub bogs). In the past there have been boardwalks through those but this year they were gone. I found out later that the preserve was technically closed, although there were no signs to that effect anywhere that we saw. The reason was that the boardwalks were out, having been destroyed in a wildfire. We managed to get through them and found four of the 14 carnivorous plants known to grow in the swamp. The four we saw were the Venux flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) shown here, along with a few sundews (Drosery species), yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia flava), and purple pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea subsp. venosa). All in all, I’d say it was a successful outing.
After our walk in the Green Swamp we drove to the Twin Ponds overlook. We affectionately call it Alligator Pond because that’s what we generally go to see. The boardwalk style viewing platform is officially call the Carl Bazemore Bird Walk. There are also birds there, and today we saw this green heron (Butorides virescens) in the shallows. In years past the view has been obscured by rank growth between the viewing platform and the pond. Sometime since last year that has been cut down, making the viewing considerably better. We did see an alligator there today, but I think my best photo from the visit was this one of the heron.
We made one last visit to ‘Alligator Pond’ today and got a nice, very close-up view of an American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). We also enjoyed seeing a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and across the water a flock of wood storks (Mycteria americana). It was quite hot today, probably the hottest day of the week and with rain in the morning, it was very humid. It’s our last day at the beach and we have a longish drive home ahead of us tomorrow. So, nice to take it easy today.